Game Title: Outlast – Bundle of Terror
Developer: Red Barrel Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Download: 5.7 GB
For years, people have been asking for scary horror games on handhelds. In the PSP generation, we got a couple Silent Hill games that managed to scratch that itch, but not quite live up to the heart-throbbing experiences from Silent Hill 2 and 3. The Vita didn’t get very much, outside of indie games and the new Corpse Party game.
This generation, though, developers were up to the task. Outlast, the game that was argued to be the scariest horror game of all time back in 2013 had a stealth-launch on the Nintendo Switch along with the announcement of Outlast 2 coming for the Switch as soon as next week.
Upon request, I dove into the depths and have returned in one piece. Here is my review of Outlast: Bundle of Terror for the Nintendo Switch!
Outlast is about a journalist who receives an anonymous tip that the company in charge of a secluded insane asylum is performing illegal experiments on its patients and needs to be exposed. Always willing to take risks, the reporter heads out to this asylum and sneaks inside a window to find out the truth, not knowing what horrors awaited him inside.
On top of that, this also includes the Whistleblower DLC Campaign that takes place before, during, and after the events of the main game. It fleshes out a lot of the backstory of not only the events going on in the asylum, but for the anonymous person who tipped off the main game’s protagonist into seeking the truth.
Outlast is like the movie Grave Encounters. The deeper you go, the more you find out, and the more screwed up everything gets. On the surface, the story is about a company performing illegal experiments and it quickly escalates into human torture, religious cults, and supernatural forces as your search for the truth turns into a vicious fight for survival.
The game fleshes out its lore much like a horror movie and that’s part of what makes it so interesting and what kept me coming back to the game. It’s something you don’t see in horror video games much these days.
Outlast is a first-person horror-themed survival game. Unlike most horror games, its key element is stealth as it creates a scenario where you cannot fight against the enemies and creatures stalking you and trying to kill you. Somewhat similar to Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, combat is not a thing and escaping pursuers is all down to running, creating barricades, and hiding.
The way progression works in Outlast is simply exploring and fulfilling objectives. Once you’re trapped in the asylum, you’ve got to find a way out. Someone cut the power, so you’re sent to the basement to turn the generators back on so you can get the front doors open and leave, and then something else happens and you’re given a new objective. It’s very similar to other games around, but without always pointing you right where you need to go.
The difficult part is the horror aspect of the game. Heading down to the basement to turn the generator back on isn’t as simple as just doing it. You go down to the basement, creeping around the pitch-black underground rooms and hit the first switch, only to have a crazed lunatic with a lead pipe running straight into the room, requiring you to hide somewhere and hope he didn’t see you and drag you across the floor to beat your skull into a thousand tiny pieces.
The game creates constant tension with how it sets up the environment you’re in. Unlike most horror environments, Outlast is not a quiet game. In nearly every area, you hear strange noises, psychotic killers screaming as they are being tortured and ripped apart by something bigger and meaner, and most rooms are pitch black, making navigating them only doable with your camera’s night-vision capability until its battery runs dry.
This leads to a lot of areas with jump scares, be it an actual monstrous enemy popping out right in front of you or a brain-dead patient that’s as harmless to you as a newborn kitten. This isn’t like Resident Evil, where you get jump scares every once in awhile. In Outlast, they don’t stop, and the combination of one-time jump scares and longer sequences where an enemy will chase you and demolish doors and debris in their bloodlust of ripping you to shreds constantly has you guessing whether you’re actually in an area that’s safe or if the next corner has something even worse in store for you, making the next lethal situation that much more shocking and terrifying.
I’ll admit that I love horror games and am pretty used to playing games like Silent Hill to death. I always play horror titles in the dark because it’s fun but playing Outlast in this fashion had me jumping and overwhelmingly anxious every moment I was playing the game. A lot of people claimed it was one of the scariest games of all time back in 2013, and it definitely lives up to that title.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the game is terrifyingly-perfect. Outlast isn’t a perfect game, but its main flaw comes from its DLC Campaign, Whistleblower. While the lore bits of the Story DLC does add a lot of interesting and disturbing stuff to the experience, it is mostly littered with recycled areas, enemies, and jump scares that just don’t feel like they have as much impact as they did in the original game. In Outlast, I was constantly tense and scared about every corner, whereas in Whistleblower, I could see most of them coming and had already thought of strategy and wasn’t all that scared when the lunatic I already saw in a position to jump out at me, well, jump out at me.
As I always do, let’s talk about the amount of content in this game. Outlast is a game that people claim to be able to complete in as little as 4 hours, but that’s only true if you know where to go and you don’t awkwardly stand in corners you know lead to a huge stalker that wants to chase you down and rip you apart. Across the entirety of the game, I spent about 6-7 hours total before I finally managed to beat the game and get the ending.
Whistleblower isn’t as long, but still has some meat to it. I cleared it in almost 3 hours, putting the total amount of content up to 10 hours, give or take. There isn’t really anything, in terms of post-game content, outside of replaying the game on higher difficulties to test your skill with stealth.
Controlling the game is pretty easy to do, and there are tutorials all over the place that introduces you to different mechanics shortly before you need to use them.
The Left Analog Stick is used for moving around and the Right Analog Stick is used for moving the camera. The D-Pad / Arrow Buttons are used for looking at notes and documents that expand upon the plot. The R trigger is used to pull out your camera with clicking the Right Analog Stick will toggle the Night Vision. The L trigger is not used, while the ZL and ZR triggers are used to looking around corners before heading into new areas.
A is used to switch between standing and crouching/crawling, B is used for jumping and climbing, X lets you replace batteries for the camera, and Y interacts with doors to open them, close them, and set up barricades.
Visually, this game looks really nice. The game looks pretty much the same as all of the other versions, down to the intentional blurriness of the camera view vs your eyesight to the detail of your treaded footprints after you step through pools of blood. I saw no jagged edges or anything of the sort. Despite being 5 years old, the game looks really nice. It also looks pretty much the same in TV Mode and Handheld Mode.
Performance-wise, it runs quite well. It sticks to 30 fps and never drops in both the main game and DLC campaign. The Load Times are a little strange because the audio for the game loads before the actual game does on-screen, but otherwise, the Loading Sequences never take more than 10-20 seconds when you load a save or die and have to retry an area.
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this game’s Battery Life. It does look visually nice, but it also isn’t exactly ‘new’. But, here are my times from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 37 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 12 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 25 minutes
So, low battery life it is. Not terrible, considering everything that goes on on-screen. Plus, most people will probably be mid-heart-attack long before the 2.5 hours point and will need to put the game down, anyways, right?
In conclusion, Outlast is probably the scariest game I've ever played and puts the claims of horror games on handhelds not being scary to utter shame. It's certainly not perfect, with the DLC Campaign recycling a little too much and lowering the fear factor, but everything else about the game will have you on the edge of your seat with its tense atmosphere and deeply-disturbing themes. This is not a horror experience to be taken lightly.